Thursday, August 23: Tetons
What kind of animal is that???
The best viewing of the mountains and the best chance to see wildlife (e.g. moose) is in the early morning. Unfortunately, Amy had a really bad night. She was coughing for rather a bit of it and got up at least once. So she is sleeping in while I am typing this, and Mike is taking a bath. Maybe we can get an earlier start tomorrow.
We have only a week to go (actually more like 5 days), and so our return is weighing more and more heavily on our minds, particularly Michael’s.
Although we didn’t plan it as such, this was a somewhat quiet day for wildlife viewing.
We had breakfast at the Mural Room, where they had a breakfast buffet. It seems that when they are inviting foreign students here to work in the park system, they try to keep certain countries together. Last night, there were two people from Turkey working, and at breakfast there was a Turkish woman making Moose waffles (i.e. waffles with a moose pattern on one side).
After breakfast, we headed out. Amy wanted to find a moose and Mike wanted to see pelicans. We drove through a few pull-outs without seeing anything. Then we pulled out at the ox-bow bend, where wildlife had been reported. Amy saw some pelicans, so we got set to take pictures of them. But then Amy noticed this baby moose in the river right in front of us! I started snapping pictures like crazy, when the mommy moose came out of the brush and started meandering down the river getting a mid-day meal.
Normally you don’t see the moose except for early and late in the day, so it was rather usual to see them out near noon.
After getting tired of taking moose and pelican pictures, we continued south. We pulled off to a small road that gave river access to the Snake River. It warned that it had an 18% grade. Just as I was driving down that and saying “at least it’s paved”, we ran out of pavement. It turns out that it was a dirt road that was just paved on the steep sections.
When we got to the river, I was shocked to see what looked like a giant levee. There was a steep slope going up maybe 50 feet and then a level top. At first, I thought that this was a levee, and that the river was on the other side of it, but then I realized that the river was just on this side of it. So it was apparently a ridge on the far side of the river.
Later on, we found that it was not a ridge. It was a plateau. The river had apparently cut a canyon to its present depth. On the far side, the slope was just against the river. On the near side, there was the slope (down which we drove) and than a flat area next to the river, where the parking lot was.
As we continued, Amy wanted to stop at Mormon Row, a street off to the side that had a lot of deserted buildings from an old Mormon settlement. When we got there, we found a herd of bison right next to it, so we got a bunch more bison pictures. We drove down the row, and upon our return, we found that the parking lot we had just been parked in was now overrun with bison!
It was getting rather late for lunch, but we stopped by the Episcopal chapel, which had some neat stained-glass windows. We finally swung around to the Jenny Lake Lodge for lunch at 2:30.
Only to find that they stopped serving lunch at 1:30! The next closest restaurant was at Jackson Lake, i.e. where we had been staying. We didn’t want to go that far, so we stopped at the general store and got some pre-fab sandwiches. We finished those around 3:30. We visited the visitor’s center, then walked down to the lake, checked out the boathouse, and got some (not so good) pictures of the mountains.
Michael was feeling very tired, and I was a bit droopy as well, so we decided to return to the lodge. The one thing that Michael wanted to do, however, was to drive to the top of Signal Mountain. It rises about 1000 feet above the valley, and you can drive to the top.
On the way up, we noticed a pond/wetland that looked favorable for seeing wildlife on the side of the road. We figured that we would check it out on the way down. The view from the top was OK, but it faced east, away from the mountains, and things were rather hazy due to the forest fire smoke.
On the way down, we saw some stopped cars, so we figured that wildlife was nearby. We looked all over, when suddenly a black bear jumped out of the woods ahead of us and started walking down the road. Unfortunately, before we could get close enough to get a good picture of it, the car ahead of us got too close, and the bear turned and ran off into the woods.
Further down the mountain, we passed by some stopped cars that said that deer were nearby. It happens that they were just before the pullout to that wetlands. So we parked there. It was sort of hard to see the deer, as they were in a thicket. We could mostly see their antlers bobbing about. I walked out into the wetlands along a path (that wasn’t too close), but I couldn’t see them. While I was looking, however, I saw a deer running across the area further away, so I got some pictures.
I went back to the parking lot to find that Michael was having a panic attack. I think it was a combination of being physically stressed (i.e. tired and thirsty) and mentally stressed thinking about school in less than a week. While Amy was tending towards Michael, I tried to get some better pictures of the deer, but I didn’t have much success.
While I was doing so, however, I noticed a strange creature climbing a tree right in front of me. It didn’t look like anything that I was familiar with. It turns out that it was a martin--a weasel-like creature. I got some pictures of it, although I don’t know how good they came out. Amy got a video (Michael was by this time over his panic attack) that came out rather good.
During this time, one or two cars had pulled in, and a family had joined us looking at the two deer (in the thicket). Their child started crying, and one of the deer looked like it was going to leave. I went back to the parking lot and got some pictures of it as it left and crossed the road.
Just then another car came screaming into the pull-out. The driver jumped out shouting, “There’s a bear! The deer didn’t leave because of us, it was getting away from the bear!”. So we went back to the wetlands and saw a black bear (maybe the same one we had seen earlier on the road) on the far side trotting away. I really have to disagree with that driver. In my opinion, the deer left because of the screaming child and probably couldn’t care less about the bear on the far side of the pond.
We then continued back to the lodge. We made a brief stop at the Catholic Chapel and at the Jackson Lake dam, then arrived at our cottage.
We wanted to just chill out for a while. Michael lay down. I was going to go to the lodge for a bit and write up this journal. I figured that I would check out dinner reservations, and then call Amy on the cell to tell her what I could get. Then I thought, “wait-a-minute! I can make reservations here over the phone!” So I called them and made reservations for an early dinner, so that we could get to bed at a decent time.
That left only about a half hour before dinner, so I changed my plans and took a shower. By the time I finished and put on clean clothes, it was time to head over. I made a small detour to check out the pool. This is the first National Park Lodge that we’ve seen that actually has a pool. It wasn’t bad, but the water was probably a bit too cool for my taste.
I really wanted a chef’s salad for dinner, as it was only 3 hours since lunch and I wasn’t that hungry. I also wanted more vegetables in my diet. But they didn’t have anything like that. So I (and Amy) ended up ordering vegetable wellingtons. The bread basket came with “moose butter” which was not, as the name suggested, butter with moose added. It was butter in the shape of a moose.
We ended up getting a freebie tiny appetizer courtesy of the chef, but I don’t recall what it was.
Michael was tired and originally didn’t want any dinner at all, but he finally ordered some mac and cheese, and by the end of the meal had eaten all of it.
After dinner, we got some bison-shaped chocolate pieces. Amy had already left to do a little birding on the hill next to the lodge, so I asked the waiter for some paper towels or napkins, so that I could put hers in it to take to her without it melting all over my hands. The plate that held the chocolates had been warm from the dish washer, and they had melted slightly, so he offered to bring a new one wrapped in paper. That was nice of him.
I was going to bring Michael to the cottage so that he could go to sleep, but the meal seemed to have perked him up. He wanted to go “birding” with Amy. So we went up the hill. Unfortunately, we started on the opposite side of the loop trail than Amy had, and she hadn’t gotten that far, so we had to go through the whole trail to reach her. At this point, we found that the paper didn’t have one chocolate, it had three! So Amy had one, I had two (one at dinner, one afterwards), and Michael had three (two at dinner).
At this point, the sun was setting over the mountains, which brought their silhouette into the sharpest contrast of the entire day.
Then I retired to the lodge to write down this journal, while Mike stayed with Amy. On my way in, I ran across the cookie woman. We had had run across her the previous night as well, and we had seen her leaving the restaurant earlier. She takes a large tray of cookies with her, and she wanders around the lobby handing them out. I guess she does it until she finds home for all of the cookies, and then she can return. I helped her, by taking one of her cookies for a post-dinner dessert.
Our plans are to get to bed early tonight. Get up somewhat early tomrrow. We’ll take the boat across Jenny Lake and do some hiking on the other side. Then we’ll crash somewhere in Jackson Hole. The next day we drive to Salt Lake City. Then we’ll stay there for a few days (visiting Snorbird again for Michael) until our flight home.
I found that walking back from the lodge to the cottage, alone, through the dark, to be very quiet and peaceful. There have been few quiet moments on this trip.